Mortality

It is of course likely only coincidence that my life appears to sustain a number of curious ironies. My surname, Laliberte, was likely adopted by by early 19th century French-Canadian settlers who had a quasi-patriotic appreciation for the French Revolution, which as we all know spawned the political sentiment of reaction. I have also attended to a study of romantic relationships and written a number of times, explicitly and implicitly, on the phenomena of heartbreak; naturally, it follows that I was born with the condition of aortic stenosis, i.e. I have a broken heart. Later this morning I shall be having an MRI in order to better ascertain the health of my heart and should have a medical plan of action recommended to me within the week. Allow me to put to rest any fears that I am suffering from a major condition; thankfully (at least in my individual case, I am reluctant to suggest it is necessarily a benefit to society overall) medicine has advanced to the point that any surgery required would be non-invasive and recovery would be swift. If you are so inclined, prayers are appreciated.

This has brought to mind a number of thoughts about my mortality. What words are significant enough to encompass that great, final definition of life, the termination of Dasein? Though I may be blase here and on Twitter about living and dying, the population cycle, Malthusian pressure, the great evolutionary game of life, frankly I am afraid. I am not ready to meet God; could I, were it at all possible, I would hide from His sight, from His judgment. There is nothing I can give to God which can ever recompense my sins, my insults against the Holiness of Christ; I have not turned my back on Christ, I have spit on Him and gleefully driven the nails in with my own hands. All I have is my brokenness to offer and the delusional hope that His mercy may extend to this lowliest of sinners. I am afraid to even try to be humble, as though it should be a greater hypocrisy than a sheer indifference.

I never cease to find the words of Msgr. Charles Pope in this excerpt from a funeral sermon stirring:

“You are going to die. I am going to die. You are going to die. What are you and I doing to get ready to meet God?”

What is faith in God? In the modern age, we have turned the issue of religion into a consumption good, a philosophical dispute in which we might pretend our intellectual dominance. I do not have faith that God exists; for that, I have belief on the basis of an understanding constructed through the integral attempt to know myself, to know what I am, to know what I should do. My faith is that God shall save me, for my salvation is the most certainly unknowable thing in the universe. But I am afraid to have faith, for there is nothing about me which can give confidence in my salvation. I am mortally afraid. I would sooner delete, burn, and forget everything I have written than have to face God’s judgment. Yet that judgment shall come. And what am I doing to be ready? I know it is not enough; I mean this not only in the sense that nothing would be enough, but even what crumbs of piety a Catholic may partake of.

I shall pass away from this world, and no matter even if I am remembered as an Aristotle of my day, I shall be forgotten, save by God. The day shall come when the life I have lived, every thought I have jotted here and elsewhere, shall cease to have meaning to any living being. My significance and being is only for the present, and the present is fleeting, falling through my hands as grains of sand. I was born to die, yet I indulge in the idolatrous cult of youth, the Augustinian whisper of a prayer that I might be chaste, just not yet, ever on my lips. I’ve taken the devil’s wager, that I might enjoy the pleasures of sin with the presumption that I will repent later.

Why am I being so personal? After all, I have a strong distaste for gaining any sort of validation through my work. This blog is intended to be a purely intellectual work. But I wonder to what degree such a compartmentalization is valid. I promise this post shall be the extremely rare exception, I only feel a compulsion to voice aloud my wonder at the state of my soul. To what degree is my degeneracy a product of my age? To what degree am I only giving in and excusing myself through the evil of others? I know I shall never be perfect, and I will never be thought a saint. But I can do better. The trappings of Catholicism and a sincere belief (yes, I do have a sincere belief in the Risen Lord and His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, and I begrudge the suggestion that it is somehow mere play-acting) are not enough; they only make me lukewarm.

I should like to propose a prayer by St. Thomas Aquinas, after whom I take part of my name, for the task of neoreaction and, most importantly of all, the souls of neoreactionaries whether Catholic or not.

O creator past all telling,
you have appointed from the treasures of your wisdom
the hierarchies of angels,
disposing them in wondrous order
above the bright heavens,
and have so beautifully set out all parts of the universe.

You we call the true fount of wisdom
and the noble origin of all things.
Be pleased to shed
on the darkness of mind in which I was born,
The twofold beam of your light
and warmth to dispel my ignorance and sin.

You make eloquent the tongues of children.
Then instruct my speech
and touch my lips with graciousness.
Make me keen to understand, quick to learn,
able to remember;
make me delicate to interpret and ready to speak.

Guide my going in and going forward,
lead home my going forth.
You are true God and true man,
and live for ever and ever. Amen.

Tradition as Knowledge

The production of knowledge in human beings involves a selective process by which hypotheses concerning the tendency of phenomena are formed and implicitly tested against presently observable phenomena and background knowledge. Those hypotheses which prove reliable, i.e. they manage to provide some explanation and predictive power as to the tendency of beings in the world are then inducted into our background knowledge and became part of our “web of belief” or knowledge base by which other hypotheses are implicitly tested and formulated against. Of course, there is a certain Ouroborean aspect to this, in which knowledge which had previously been inducted into the knowledge base may be analyzed from a novel perspective might be pruned and replaced by a system which has the appearance of greater overall cohesiveness, or elegance.

We might model “knowledge systems” as we do beings in the world, interacting and adapting itself in order to preserve itself over time; knowledge is inherently biased in favor of itself, and this not purely out of the psychological software which processes it in the evolutionary savanna, but because it was produced in order to take an active role in the overall knowledge base. Delusional knowledge bases occur when the overall knowledge set is inverted in favor of protecting some particular piece of knowledge, and a creature which finds itself in thrall to such a delusion begins to demonstrate a discontinuity between itself and the world, a crime which Gnon nimbly punishes without mercy.

Humans, as individuals, have an egocentric tendency to attribute their own agency as the efficient cause of their knowledge, as though they had managed to formulate purely by the power of their own will the hypothesis of the Pythagorean theorem, the theory of evolutionary descent, and so on, when in reality agency at best plays a supervisory role in selecting for metrics by which hypotheses are tested for elegance. In reality, even our own will is a genetic blessing. The marshmallow experiment suggests the ability to delay gratification is innate, which implies evolutionary models of knowledge production favor those able to hold out for hypotheses that withstand a greater instances of tests. (This suggests that we are limited in our ability to construct accurate knowledge bases by our ability to delay gratification, which is finite in all of us…)

Non-agentic epistemology might appear to leave us in a nihilism of knowing, but it’s actually not so controversial as one might suppose. I have the belief, formed through processes which have, contingent on my survival to this day and time have the quality of reliability, that there is a computer before me and that this coffee I am drinking is mildly bitter. If I had the ability to, through some kind of doxastic voluntarism, choose to not believe these things were the case, I am at least mildly delusional. That is, we recognize the agentic aspect of knowledge production has a role to play in reliable knowledge production, but there are certain bounds beyond which it has no authority and can only defer to those processes specialized to the subprocesses involved in hypothesis testing.

In reality, we rarely have a thorough understanding of exactly how and why our knowledge base is as it is, yet we continue to defer to it with an overall rate of success. The bad beliefs have a tendency to meet bad outcomes and so are, through a process of evolutionary descent, pruned, leaving the good beliefs that at least have an appearance of producing good outcomes. (The appearance of good outcomes is itself in part subject to the evaluative process which is undertaken through the knowledge base, which is why inaccurate beliefs may persist despite other material and reproductive benefits accruing. We’re leaving that aside for now.) In other words, when we are utilizing our knowledge in real time, our justification isn’t a lengthy treatise from first principles walking through all the pieces of our knowledge and the experience base which it has been tested against, but essentially “I do it this way because I’ve done it that way in the past, and it seems to have worked out so far.” Are there limits to this approach? Of course. There is always the potential for a cycle to crop up which we never could have observed ourselves, or some extraordinary circumstance mitigated the competing effects of two (or more) forces from having an influence, and so on. However, it’s as good as knowledge gets, and holding out for a “better knowledge forming process” is something you will die before you get; better to live with a few wrong beliefs than die without any (contra Clifford).

“That’s the way it’s always been done” is a kind of justification which can be named “traditionalism.” Our knowledge forming processes at the individual level are parallel to the development of active social models which are selected for on the basis that they produce perpetuating models that can withstand contact with reality. We rarely (if ever) know why we know what we know, but we’re still better off going with what we do know and making novel developments in the social knowledge base carefully and locally.

Heartbreak in the Aggregate

I hope my readers don’t mind a post that pulls from a more intimate acquaintance of my personal history, but it appears that in order to speculate as to the effects of a society which is highly conducive to the formation, and breaking, of deeply involved romantic relationships one must begin by turning inward to those effects as experienced by oneself. If you’re afraid of this becoming uncomfortable, don’t worry, it’s not my intent to make this a mopey piece. I intend only a disinterested, positive analysis of how heartbreak has affected my inner constitution and how that affects the relationships I form with people in the present.

I have a theory of trauma which would suggest that heartbreak is the result of a massive falsification of one’s expectations re: the beloved and the future one expected to have with that other. The initial upset, especially given as creatures evolved towards the end of reproduction, and the essentially correlative sense of love and generation, means that substantial emotional investment into a person and the plans made together takes place must be completely rewired, a substantial psychological task that cannot be performed without a certain amount of mental pain. The mind immediately sets to searching for those signs which predicted such an end to the relationship, grasping to any and all potential indicators, attempting to determine how such things might have been avoided and what this means to new relationships.

However, such a task is basically beyond the ability of any normal mind. If such an end were to occur and to blindside the person, the likelihood that they would have happened to pay attention to those telltale signs are extremely low, if there even could’ve been signs which most definitely portended such an event. In the mind’s attempt to develop defense mechanisms against loved ones leaving one in dire straits, and the inherent grand ambiguity of an infatuation-disoriented interpersonal exchange process, the only sure defense is to never love. The conditions to avoid which would allow love to be preserved are unknowable; ergo, the ability to trust and love another in the romantic sense is vastly diminished. The mental effort available to pour into a romantic relationship is simply not available like it was before, closing one off from the hurt that would come with love but also closing one off from the comfort, the ego-validating entanglement with another.

Not everyone in our society has suffered heartbreak to an equal degree. One imagines that the breaking up of high school sweethearts after several years in college, which had allowed the conceit that we would be different to grow, is more traumatic than the ending of a summer fling. Yet at the same time, there is nothing necessary about time in the equation; as writers in the manosphere are fond of pointing out, 5 minutes of alpha is worth 5 years of beta. The specifics aside, it is yet the case that the dissolving of romantic partnerships by the unilateral will of one of the partners takes place at rates unprecedented in human history. In the majority of human cultures through time and space, extramarital romance was frowned upon, and many marriages were arranged by parents without any deference to the utility of romance. It is ironic that a culture such as ours, which esteems romance and infatuation an end which justifies almost any means, attempts to support the formation and maintenance of romantic partnerships with inadequate institutions, i.e. essentially none. Marriage has been completely hollowed out and survives as a legal fiction half through memetic momentum and the lobbying of the divorce industry (if no one’s getting married, no one needs legal adjudication to divide children and property).

The greatest effects are on intersexual relations, and diminishes to a non-negligible degree the social capital formation which might be produced between intersexual interpersonal exchange, whether romantic or not. Men and women will, for fear of romantic involvement, selectively close off relations with the other sex, and even when romantic intent is present, this is divided from the intent of procreation as that entails an even greater emotional investment. I would suggest that this is among the contributing factors to declining fertility rates, a high equilibrium of divorce, and fundamentally broken marriages. The separation of the self from those means by which he would otherwise become more socially integrated leaves an atomized individual in its place, and alters his life strategy to avoid those situations which involve romantic trust. He won’t be happy, but at least he won’t suffer in emotional anguish.

The atomization of the individual by the continual pruning of romantic involvement begins as soon as one is capable of earnest romantic attachment. The coed public education experience places children/young adults (18 as age of majority, we must remember, is both a social construct that doesn’t reflect any innate biological change going on at that age, and is also a deviation from the historical norm) into an environment which just 150 years ago never existed outside very particular and extraordinary inversions of social stability. That is, the overwhelming presence of so many of the opposite sex appears to have the potential to trigger earlier sexual maturity, and earlier sexual maturity is correlated to more r-selected mating strategies. (That is, the presence of so many others near in age suggests, outside of the present, a quasi-apocalyptic event that decimated the population, leaving few parents and many young children, which would give an incentive to earlier and more frequent mating; the prevalence of birth control mitigates the biological symptoms, but the mental symptoms remain. Consider how many found middle and high school a purely traumatic experience, especially those who attended more racially diverse schools.)

The result of this atomization and inability to trust people on the individual level is an increasing dependence on government. Even those not traditionally considered “dependent” on the government (e.g. welfare and disability checks) have become dependent on the government through directly public or mediated means, from Social Security, the propping up of industries, and regulations which create space for non-productive individuals to gain a living without having to form family ties which used to be the one reliable form of “social safety net.” Without there being a need to develop trust relations on the individual level, less effort goes into it and it becomes more difficult to signal trust and reliability, since many are just not investing as much in interpersonal exchange at the individual level, putting more trust in institutions with a veneer of permanence and stability. This may in part explain the turn by Millennials and Gen X’ers, who despite having an extremely low level of trust in the government, remain in favor of it because they are unable to develop a greater level of trust with others on the individual level.

Speculative Anarchism

What is slavery? In its most abstract form, slavery is simply the abrogation of one’s will by another. When one is a slave, there is some sense in which another has the right to command of you your labor, time, and property, to assign to you distinct privileges about where you shall go and who you shall marry, and so on. By this definition, we are all slaves. We all have wills which are to a non-trivial degree abrogated by the state, which dictates to us what we may and may not do (we may go to college, if that college will let us in, but we may not accept a position working at McDonald’s for less than $7/hour). Granted we are slaves in a very limited sense, and have widely guaranteed privileges not usually assigned to those we tend to more readily perceive as slaves, but given the state’s ultimate and last authority on our lives, we are slaves nonetheless. A long chain is no less a chain for being long.

The modernist shall want to object to this understanding of slavery, for under the modernist ethic slavery is just per se wrong; it cannot be wrong to be a citizen of a state, ergo we are not slaves. However, this essentially just ignores that element which, in those settings they recognize slavery to take place in a de facto sense, makes slavery what it is; having a master who retains an authority over an individual. On the other hand, one can make the modernist argument go another way; if slavery is per se wrong, and statism is slavery, statism is immoral. But I’m not making that argument here.

The more common sense approach, and naturally the one which the leftist cannot see, is that the justification of statism is a kind of justification of slavery. After all, a very simple argument may be promoted for the state: it makes our society better off. A society with a state (under our present conditions) is less prone to violence, more pro-social outcomes are possible, and so on. One can hash out the details about what specific ways a state does and doesn’t accomplish this, but the point remains that statism is a kind of slavery, and it is justified in the end by making its population better off.

When one compares the living conditions of 19th century black slaves to those ancestral conditions the slaves came from, it isn’t difficult to demonstrate that there are systematic ways in which the slaves just were better off. No, they weren’t as well off as the free whites, but then one must consider whether the free whites were so well off because they were free or because they were white (or perhaps both). If the living standards obtained by whites in the 19th century has something to do with their being of European descent, this suggests it may not be the case that another population, unadapted to civilization, would be as well off in civilization without some limit on their social privileges. That is, being a freeman (that is, a slave to a lesser degree) requires the ability to direct oneself to work, to marriage, to family, an ability which isn’t necessarily shared equally by populations; those populations which lack that internal motivation shall be unable to attain optimal living standards by themselves, but must have that motivation be asserted extrinsically, i.e. by the greater abrogation of will.

There is a potential test for this. What if we were to allow a respected corporation, such as Google or Ford, buy the rights to a population of low academic achievers, and thus to direct those individuals to how they should live? The Google or Ford in this case would be interested in deriving maximum economic benefit from these people, which beside that they are incapable of intellectually demanding work, we imagine they would find some way of doing so. Were this hypothetical slave-owning corporation to not only derive a greater economic product from this population of slaves compared to a similar population of freemen, but simultaneously provided greater material and social outcomes to this population of slaves, well, I’m willing to bet a certain amount  of the freemen would be begging to have their rights bought by slavemaster Google.

We say that slavery becomes unnecessary in the case a population is capable of looking after themselves. They needn’t even necessarily be better off by material metrics by being free, for typically we attribute a value to being free of itself. Let us suppose that those populations which have less need of slavery will be more K-selected, i.e. having those traits necessary to succeed under civilizational conditions. If a population is sufficiently K-selected, it is better off free and not under the limited conditions of slavery as may be proper to other less K-selected populations. Indeed, this argument entails a speculative anarchism; if statism is a distributed, less abrogatory slavery, then some populations could be so K-selected as to be better off without a state. In other words, anarchy may be the optimal condition for some hypothetical populations (which may or may not exist in the present, I would assume not).

Already, there is a degree to which the modern state has a diminished degree of engaging in governance than it did before, at least because now private and quasi-public entities have begun taking over more and more of governance, influencing legislation and policy as privately vested interests and not as publicly vowed servants. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in itself; there may be a lower limit to the state’s time preference, and the point at which corporations and social bodies come into being which have and can feasibly exercise even lower time preference, we should begin to see the validity of these lower-time preferenced organizations taking on governance from the purview of the state in order to administer policies which, by respecting these lower time preferences of their interests. The state shall not disappear from history through revolution, but  more likely it shall simply fade as it has less and less relevance to the lives of individuals, and those aspects of governance which were previously the acquaintance by those individuals is taken up and administered by purely private bodies beholden to a purely private distribution of agreements (e.g. common law, polycentrism).

We should begin to approach an understanding of governance not from a peculiarly statist or even anti-statist bent, but I would suggest a non-statist perspective. The state can engage in governance, but that does not mean it always should. There are hypothetical conditions (unlikely to have been met by any present population) in which we shouldn’t expect a state to have an effective role in society, and this not for a lack of organic order, but precisely due to that organic growth of society. The state might be understood as a kind of egg tooth, or else a piece of social technology which shall eventually be outmoded by some superior social technological advancement.

IQ and Eugenics

I’ve long been skeptical that a simple and outright selection for IQ, full stop, is necessarily eugenic, at least in the sense of contributing to a society’s overall stability. IQ is a multidimensional trait, which can be parsed out at least into the distinct categories of visuospatial, mathematical, and verbal IQ. It is not necessarily the case that the behavioral regularities associated with these expressions of intelligence are equivalent, and by that unlikely that they have equivalent kinds of life strategies and outcomes. Given this, I will forward some speculations about the intelligence constitution of societies brought about by the ongoing discussion of cities as IQ shredders. I note the highly tentative nature of these hypotheses, but I suspect that delving into distinct IQ and psychological profiles and the selection thereof is the beginning of an answer to the IQ shredder paradox.

What initially roused my suspicion to the claim that cities are dysgenic for the societies they are attached to is that increasing urbanization was coincidental to Western Europe’s civilizational, and ergo genetic, rise. The cities do effect an overall depression of fertility, at least with respect to those living in more rural areas. This means that the civilizing pressure of Malthus is not some universal force which affects each individual an equal degree; Malthusian pressure exists as the summation of pressures affecting each individual’s reproductive success. So much as society has unequal uses for different psychological profiles, those which are oversupplied relative Darwinian demand will tend to be consistently selected out, while those which fulfill some niche shall be genetically promoted.

Which kinds of people are most likely to end up in city centers? Those which most crucially depend upon interpersonal exchange for their livelihood, which includes those of a high verbal acumen and criminals. City as “criminal shredder” seems not so bad, but what of verbal intelligence? Do we not lose something integral if verbal intelligence is depressed in the population by cities’ selection effects? There appears a number of reasons why this may be a good thing.

First, I suspect there is a positive correlation between verbal intelligence and fanaticism. History is replete with characters of high charisma honed by high verbal IQ engaging in populist uprisings of political and religious character (and one questions the exact point of discontinuity between the religious and the political). In other words, there is a tendency for high verbal IQ (let’s call them “sophists” for short) to produce systems of power and influence, which if uncontrolled by a sovereign proves destabilizing as institutions vie for power. Per Moldbug’s law of power, high asymmetry proves most stable; so in this case, high asymmetry of sophistical powers allows those powers (and almost all power is sophistical in nature) to put forth less effort into managing and beating down nascent sophistical attempts for power.

Second, there is the historical example of the Catholic Church’s clerical and monastic orders, which enforced virtual poverty and abstinence, simultaneously making those of non-royal descent but high sophistical prowess dependent on the royal and ecclesiastical purse and unlikely to reproduce, bolstering the power of these institutions and helping to secure their ideological longevity.

In short, there  is the potential that the tendency for cities to shred sophists gives up a little IQ growth to clear the way for the more useful, and less troublesome, kinds of IQ such as the visuospatial and mathematical, which rarely direct themselves to use the weapons they actually build.

Of course my hypothesis here depends upon empirical verification which is yet unavailable. While there is evidence suggesting sophists are most attracted to city centers, and resultantly have lower rates of fertility, this isn’t demonstrated beyond doubt. Likewise, it predicts we would tend to find high verbal IQ in nobility, but assessing this requires a number of studies which we may not yet be able to perform (but I do have some ideas to this end). Clark’s The Son Also Rises, which charts the diffusion of names of noble lineage and their outcomes suggests that, in the age which saw the relaxing of pressures to select against sophism, their profusion indicates nobility were sophist-heavy. Furthermore, it assumes high verbal IQ, as an outlying trait, translates to occupations in the city.

Even if the specifics of my hypothesis are incorrect, analyzing the other eugenic traits of cities and other reproductive (or not) centers of society is crucial to understanding the correlation between norms and social order.

Cycles, Society, and History

What would a cyclical history be? The term ‘cyclical’ is frequently used without delving into the nuts and bolts about what counts as a cycle or what it means for something to be cyclical (aside from the obvious “it happens again” but even that is oversimplified).

A cycle is an instance of effective causal feedback to its mover. The mover in this case may be an atom, an organization, or even a set of things. Some cycles are highly regular, meaning they tend to take place through the same channels with high frequency, with little deviation therefrom. A feedback loop which is completely self-contained and never interfaces with external objects could be called perfectly regular (the only such loop would be the sum totality of existing things). Cycles which tend to take place through novel interactive pathways are more irregular, and unsurprisingly tend to complete less frequently. Since (essentially) no cycle occurs with perfect regularity, every system is subject to potential discontinuity. In some cases this potential for discontinuity is very small (consider the cycle constituted by a credit card transaction), while for others it is very large (consider conquest by war).

Society is not only a set of spontaneous social cycles subject to cultural, legal, and economic regularities, it is also a cycle producing being. That is, as it grows it produces new potential cycles; these new potential cycles are, for instance, new divisions of labor within the economy. The introduction of new potential cycles tweaks the potential for creating new cycles, which suggests less a completed circle (at least as we imagine it to metaphorically stand in for a description of a complete cycle) and more an unwinding spring, or a spiral.

To enumerate on a cyclical conception of the chain of being; merely material being unwinds into biological being unwinds into social being unwinds into civilization unwinds into..? To put this in a more classically Aristotelian sense, though no less accurately; all being in this world is composed of matter and form. There is no “pure matter” per se, matter exists only as it is wedded to form and has substantial being. Material forms constitute biological forms such as vegetative and animate life, which in turn constitute the rational form of being which is human life. Human beings, in turn are the matter of the social form, and these social beings are themselves the matter of some civilizational form… This more or less takes for granted that as time goes on forms go fractal, permitting the (potential) ability to zoom in and out endlessly, encountering novel constitutions of being from their simpler parts (assuming one has the time and space to do it). But this is a step ahead, back to cycles.

Cycles are important for they indicate the contours of individual beings. Within a being, effective feedback mechanisms are the indicator of integrity; we identify the failing health of an animal, for instance, with parts of the body becoming unable to interact cohesively to the benefit of the whole. A cycle by necessity treats each individual part as conferring an addition to the whole which would not be included were that individual part not included; there are no free-riding parts in a cycle. (The benefits of a cycle may be distributed beyond it, but this due to other cycles and not the cycle responsible for the instantiation of the benefit; think production vs extraction.) This does not mean each individual part is included by necessity. Some cycles include a great number of accidental parts, but this does not mean the overall effects to other potential cycles are negligible.

The difficulty of history with respect to cycles is that the greater intergenerational cycles which contribute to the rise and fall of civilizations are impossible to witness within a single lifetime, even if one knew what to look for. Furthermore, extricating individual cycles from each other to know the influence of each on the overall spontaneous social order requires multiple verification of the cycle to get an idea of how one regulates itself over time (or else doesn’t, and goes extinct). Some cycles are deeply written into human history, as they are founded in our genetic character. Others are more immanent and everyday, such as interpersonal relationships subject to our immediate negotiation (e.g. having a bank account) but which nonetheless at the population level exhibit clear sociobiological tendencies and regularities.

The suggestion that history is cyclical is really no more mysterious or grandiose than suggesting that clocks measure time through a highly regular cycle, e.g. the interaction between a laser and cesium atoms. It only happens to be constituted by cycles which are in principle impossible to observe by an individual directly (though it is possible indirectly, and only with highly probabilistic inference) as they occur by definition beyond the purview of the individual (otherwise Dunbar plus societies would be impossible) and can take a really long time to transpire (some social cycles, especially those tied to eugenic/dysgenic selection, take centuries to successfully become clear).

At this point, the question of how cycles may be studied in order to gauge the health of a society becomes pertinent. Not all structures conduct cycles equally; some incentivize (in the really long run, aka evolutionary timescale) eugenic selection, precipitating the production of novel potential cycles at scale with the social and material capital demands of a growing society, while others may be dysgenic, precipitating action pathways which disrupt the transmission of a cycle. In general, we would tend to identify a more civilized society with cycles which foster the creation of more cycles, while a more barbaric society would have a greater proliferation of cycles which inhibit the creation of more cycles. The former exercises a tendency towards lower time preference, and is thus associated with social and legal norms that engender investment and cooperation. The latter tends higher, and is thus associated with the use of violence and tribal warfare. However, this doesn’t mean one should desire cycles completing which never inhibit others particularly; per the logic of the market, businesses shall fail partly through the superior resource management of other businesses, which is an instance of successful cycle completion which precludes some particular cycle completion while simultaneously creating the opportunity for an overall greater number of cycles (e.g. the greater overall resources saved in this case).

This is, in short, the background of cyclical history. We mean by it not some predestination by the stars, only the complex interacting effects of millions of simultaneous cycles taking place which is society.

Gnonologia

Gnon is not God, but the parallel between Gnon and divine providence is hard to shake. There is a lingering anti-description, a pointing-towards, a fundamental tendency towards the refining of this concept of the will of nature and how we may be either aligned with or against it, and how that alliance shall determine the flourishing of civilization.

The law of Gnon may be summarized in but three words: thrive or die. One is either expanding, taking ever more resources and power under the purview of one’s form, or that form is being succeeded, outcompeted, and ultimately vanquished by others. Whether that form is merely material, biological, or social, Gnon has pitted not only life but all of being in a war of all against all. This war cannot be legislated away by a sovereign; at best, Hobbes’ sovereign can only bargain collectively for his society and hope that the pittance of existence is sufficient to continue the expansion of his people over the land, time, and space. But there is no dethroning Gnon; Gnon has its (its, Gnon is not a person) will by the ordaining of God, who is its only master and whom it serves with unrivaled slavishness. One cannot get between God and Gnon, for the latter is His embodied will; it is in this sense we must reconcile ourselves to Gnon, not as would-be conquerors but children before a king.

Evolution selected as much for the properties of consciousness and individual reason as it did for civilization. We should keep in mind that civilization is less the product of human intelligence and more that human intelligence is the product of civilization; in other words, our reason is not for our own ends, but that of society’s. Society does not serve us, we serve society, and by extension society serves Gnon. This tendency of procession, hand over hand as a rope pulling the curtains on the universe, endless branch pruning and dispassionate selection, marks the rhythm of time. Evolution brings low both those forms of insufficient ambition and insufficient humility. Timidity invites the slow death of decline, hubris invites fiery apocalypse. Pursuing the telos of society is a task between Scylla and Charybdis.

Gnon is the summation of telos. It is the accumulation of all individual telos’ acting at once for their own ends, with competing interests being decided by mere force of will. It is not right or wrong that the Europeans wiped out the Native Americans through smallpox and conquest, nor is it right or wrong that the latter day Europeans are racing to sacrifice themselves to the false gods of Progress. In the long run what is, is. We cannot build civilization by dictating to Gnon our desires and preferences, our ideas about how society ought to be. We can only keep pen and parchment handy to take notes when it decides to engage in its rambling, disorganized rants.

Where does this leave neoreaction? There is no capturing of Gnon, for that is hubris. Nor is there retreating from Gnon, which is timidity. Perhaps it is fair to say we do not know what the end of society is. We may be able to understand in some vague sense the next step of civilization, but that is only an intermediary end which, being accomplished, will point the way to the next age. It is always tempting to say we have the answer, but I am reminded of Wittgenstein’s Riddle. I won’t pretend my faith doesn’t ease my mind, as I needn’t put my hopes ultimately in the feebleness of man. We may at best approximate those forms of society which perpetuate it with the hope that this shall see it to its end, but of course there is no promise of such from Gnon. Whatever that be, Gnon shall have its way.

Behavior and Language

From my perspective, the purpose of philosophy is tussling over the best use of words. This might confirm some people’s suspicions about a number of things, but I’ll just point out that if one supposes from this that philosophy can be safely disregarded, they fail to understand the significance of language. Language is one of, if not the, most important means of interpersonal exchange available to humans, and it facilitates every interaction from the level of the everyday to the strategic and world changing.

The idea of language controlling our thought can seem kooky and occult, but the mechanism is ultimately very simple. We adapt our language on the basis of reward, being trained into the phonology and vocabulary at a young age through a behaviorist model. When the child demonstrates the correct association of ‘mommy’ to mom, he is showered with praise and affection; when he fails to do so, the praise is withheld. As we mature, this extrinsic reinforcement over the proper use of language takes on a subtler, but no less appreciably pleasurable, form of incentive; social integration. Social integration is the key to psychological health as it is, for the individual, the key to material and reproductive success. In order to be socially integrated, people must adapt the correct responses when certain language is used (or even has the potential to be used).

Object-level words such as coffee can be very easily explained; when I say coffee and the barista returns with a hot, bitter liquid, I reward her by following the socially approved script of paying for my beverage, saying thank you, and asking where the creamer is, acts which the barista understands as conditions of success. Were the barista to not return with the right liquid, I would express disapproval (politeness and disapproval are not necessarily exclusive, I’ll note) with the intent of changing the barista’s behavior so as to correctly identify the use of ‘coffee’ with coffee. Words which convey groups and multidimensional relations of behavior such as ‘honor’ or ‘humility’ can be much harder to cash out, the concept becoming clear to us through an extensive and evolving contact with social approval/disapproval for the correct articulations and instances of behavior describable by that property. In order for us intake a given statement, such as “You could show more humility,” we cannot adapt our behavior without having to adapt the way we think, in an attempt to understand how the present situation relates to those abstract principles from previous situations in which the concept was relevant and its role therein. (Note that even if we wanted to show disrespect, we must still go through the same process of implicit inference.)

Generally, people prefer to act so as to develop and maintain social integration. This leads them to adapt their behavior, personality, and way of thinking in order to maximize social approval (ceteris paribus). However, the sphere of social approval is magnitudes smaller than the actual population of humans. It follows that certain groups, inasmuch as they maintain cohesion via some shared purpose which contributes to that group’s end (rather than directly to the individual), will come in conflict since some groups’ values are competing. Leaving aside the question of semantic content for now, the effect of words between groups has a polarizing tendency. The “right words” according to one’s in-group will yield social approval, but those same words will yield social disapproval from the out-group. Why should this occur? Because the groups have learned (correctly or not) that each group has competing values, and given a zero sum game some proxy of warfare must take place at least to inhibit the power and influence of the competing group. When the right combination of words takes place and an opponent’s brain just shuts off, this is actually quite rational; what the individual has learned and understood so far as he is able is that this group he belongs to provides a benefit to him, and he would really prefer to not see this benefit go so his cognition shuts off and he goes straight into war mode.

In the mouths of anyone, most criticisms will tend to be of the form “My thede good, your thede bad.” And that may be perfectly correct. If we understand a thede as just a grouping per some principle, whether concrete or abstract, then the “group of people who accept scientific evidence in favor of evolution” is a thede, and even a thede which it is better to be a part of than not. (Of course, it doesn’t follow that certain subthedes of a thede must be good overall.) We seem to come to truth through a process of groupings and affiliations. “On this question, do you side with group x or group y?” Whether it’s the issue of free will, transubstantiation, or the proper way to butter bread, it is all a kind of test to determine which tribe someone belongs to and whether more highly invested interpersonal exchange has a benefit.

Behavior and Metaphysics

If you think you are an atom of reason, this will tend to influence the faith you place in your own wavering human judgment. If, on the other hand, you approach philosophical disquisition with some level of humility, you will tend to formulate your arguments with a respect to the limits of your cognition. If you don’t believe there are “innately known truths” which are naturally explicated through language without any essential dependence on the experience that allowed you to imbue that language with the meaning it possesses, you will exercise a dissatisfaction with arguments about ethical intuitions. Likewise, you will have little patience for positivistic accounts which situate a binary between a priori and a posteriori elements of reasoning which rules out the former as a realm of actual semantic content. This forces me to continually confront a problem: if the language of metaphysics is meaningful, how is it meaningful?

It isn’t enough to point out that the proposition of the logical positivist to cash out meaning in terms of (actual and/or possible) observations is self-defeating. It leaves the question of metaphysical semantics open. We don’t have innate ideas about “being” or “causation” which are then translated into English via some Rosetta Stone to the mentalese which would instantiate those ideas in our brains. This is not to say there is nothing innately human to reasoning; the power of human reason is still something innate. It’s just what makes us rational beings; if we lacked these powers, we wouldn’t be human. What is innate to human reasoning is the way in which experience is constructed, the tendency to note association between phenomena and categorize those associations between essential (i.e. causal) and accidental (i.e. correlated by intermediary causes). The ground level of linguistic learning is simple reward and punishment; the child who correctly uses words receives positive social feedback. I say “Coffee” to the barista, and when brought something else I express disapproval, a mild form of punishment summarily replaced by approval when the correct beverage is served. From there, “coffee” is categorized under caffeinated beverages, beverages, consumables, and so on up the chain of categories to the most general. This ability to distinguish between property-based sets of things in the world is not a form of knowledge, but a habit of mental organization. We can explicate the mechanics involved, but this explication does not mean the mechanics which actually form the act of reasoning are themselves ideas; they are ideas of mechanics, but the idea of, say, modus tollens is not itself the efficient cause in actual reasoning.

This separation between the efficient mechanisms of reasoning and their description is a distinction which frequently fails to be taken into account. It is presumed that our awareness of logic constitutes our use of it, when in reality our actual use of logic occurs beneath consciousness and the participation of our ideas. There is a degree to which our consciousness acts as an executive overseeing the business of reasoning, but the bulk of the heavy lifting is still being done under the surface, guiding us to certain conclusions. This affiliation of consciousness with reasoning, however, does get at an important point. In order for this imposition of order upon mental subroutines not directly interfaced with the conscious experience of reasoning, it must be able to not only interpret the totality of experience in some way, it must have some way of perceiving relations in a way not individually ascertained by those rudimentary associative forms of reasoning. By strenuously picking out all independently ascertainable phenomena for regularities inherent to particular constructions, it provides the possibility of reorganizing the mental architecture in order to run a particular association through a different logically descriptive process. In order to do this, it must come from the most general level; hence our ability to reference the totality of experience even if it cannot be parceled out like those phenomena which comprise only part of our experience.

Metaphysics is, in other words, the description of the architecture of human reasoning. It describes the mechanics of human thought, a kind of metapsychical analysis. Being is not something intuited through any specific experience, but all experiences; this description of the totality of experience precludes the ability to introduce a semantically closed articulation, given that our experience is itself not closed (were it, we would be dead, and unable to speak besides). Reasoning is a kind of behavior, and is thus subject to positive analysis like any other objective phenomena, and occurs as an interaction between experience and picture building (in Wittgenstein’s sense). Diagnosing this regularity of reasoning as it actually takes place in the world allows one to note the continuity of reasoning and the overall behavior of the individual; after all, if reasoning is but a species of human behavior, it follows that it tells only part of the story of the individual’s behavior. Reasoning is influenced by behavior in general, and influences overall behavior in turn.

We witness this in the malleability of language. Some mechanism for expressing a particular form of reward or punishment becomes necessitated by some paradigm of social arrangement (e.g. religion, ideology), and so language is seized upon in order to control the behavior of others. To the extent you can control how someone uses language, you can control their thoughts. People who recognize the authority of another in a social situation will instinctively adapt their usage of language in order to reflect agreement in practice; in just the same instinctive way we learn how to distinguish coffee from other drinks by the reward/punishment mechanisms of social approval/disapproval in childhood and beyond, we adapt our language concerning society, the categorization of ethical prescription, God, and so on. Some people have greater influence over how language is shaped, be that for reasons of sheer human authority or a prowess of demonstration. Why did those who concern themselves over the technical use of ‘mass’ in physics begin using it in Einstein’s way? Because his conception and elaboration on the best way to articulate observable physical phenomena proved rewarding. There is no way to disconnect the act of reasoning from its social context. This should be the lesson of Kuhn, strained through the filter of social psychology; a scientific field defines itself from within, and that within is necessarily instantiated by social relations, and is thus subject to the powers and limits of social relations in general. After all, someone first needed to decide to confer degrees, which could only have been effectively done if that person’s ideas were already respected, which must have grown through a dialectical process of discussion and engagement.

So as the language of science is shaped by experimental observation, so is philosophy the attempt to shape the most general modes of thought by the most general tool of mental description; language. Philosophy proceeds through a dialectic at levels which tend to be sufficiently disconnected from lived experience that many philosophers never manage to piece the connection between their abstract thoughts and the meat and potatoes of life. A means of demonstrating, at least in a (properly) intuitive sense, by which the act of reasoning is brought under inspection by itself, so as to link the language of philosophical speculation with the everyday. And how is that done? By recognizing how philosophy proceeds from the question of organizing the principles of organization; rather than concerning itself with the members of sets, it is concerned with the principles by which those members are organized into their compartments and analyzed from that place. A description of a set such as “causal phenomena” earns it a certain kind of treatment, whereby it will be placed into certain logical forms of relation and not others. Providing the means of linking how our words gain their meaning in the endeavor of prescribing certain notational paradigms so as to demonstrate their better use for what we are attempting to do by philosophy is how one ultimately wins an argument about semantics.

Progress and Teleological History

The understanding of teleology since the Enlightenment has been essentially papered over. It is not really that teleology no longer plays a role in our understanding, indeed it is essential, but we have largely forgotten what that is and how it is tied to conceptions of order. It is a great irony that the great doctrine of our age, the defining feature of the present zeitgeist, Progress, is intrinsically teleological. But then, one must consider that if an aspect of understanding is essential, then inasmuch as the arc of history is something we try to make sense of, it follows that a teleological conception is necessarily the only kind. When we examine history, we ask not only where we came from, but how the past’s present was ordered in such a way so as to deliver the present; from this, we also ask the same about our own present, asking towards what it is oriented.

We must be wary of committing the conservative mistake with respect to epistemology. So frequently, one notices that conservatives do not contend with the real phenomena which leftists point to in order to support their values. Instead, these conservatives frequently deny that the phenomena takes place at all. This puts the conservative at a disadvantage; if one considers the concept of privilege, it is actually hard to deny that there are certain privileges which accrue to certain groups which aren’t due to any demonstrated abilities of the individual in question. The better response is to acknowledge the privilege, and then suggest more rigorous reasons for why that privilege exists besides the standard leftist end-all be-all explanation of sheer irrational racism. If there are demonstrated differences between certain groups, then per Bayesian reasoning this implies you will tend to treat those groups differently under particular circumstances. Gaining knowledge about an individual is not a costless endeavor, and sometimes the costs/risks outweigh the benefits.

It is the contention of Scholastics that whatever is an evil is but a disordered form of the good. This suggests that Progress is not some instance of pure evil, but is merely a disordered form of the good; in this case, that good is one of historical understanding. The concept of Progress clearly informs the structure of understanding, providing a logical conceptual space for performing social-moral evaluations of social phenomena. In other words, ideology. We don’t want to say it is wrong simpliciter to have overarching concepts which inform the construction of our ideas. In this case, we must point out that the idea of Progress is not wrong to suggest a direction to history, it is merely wrong about fundamental details. Given the explicit rejection of teleology by modernism, it’s not hard to grasp why a plainly teleological concept should be so hard to understand in a clear, articulate way. However, given an explicit understanding of teleology, that should allow us to begin formulating a more ordered form of teleological history.

Most reject the concept of teleology explicitly primarily for a lack of understanding what it is and isn’t. If I might define teleology, I would define it as the tendency of beings to behave in order to come to an equilibrium. That is all it is, and nothing more; we mustn’t let certain linguistic and philosophical terms of art confuse us on this point, but must structure our language around this understanding. The sense in which we are able to understand how a material body ought to operate given certain conditions of mass, momentum, and proximity to other bodies is just what a teleological understanding is. When we observe the path of Saturn through the sky and notice a perturbation, that is a perturbation relative that world in which another body didn’t exist sufficiently nearby to gravitationally affect it. Science is simply impossible without the concept of teleology, since we always understand something to be a perturbation in the case a being exemplifies activity only explained by the postulate of an additional being or event not previously incorporated into our model. We expect a stone to fall to the ground like so; when it doesn’t, we do not suggest we were wrong to expect that, but had only failed to previously notice something in the world which would cause it to act otherwise.

Applying this understanding to society, we then come to understand history as the record of civilization’s activity. We apply certain models in economics and anthropology which postulate a tendency towards equilibrium, which is just to say they are explicitly teleological, presupposing a form of order by which deviations from the hypothetical order are explained by additional variables. Prices for a good remain above clearing equilibrium? It isn’t that the equilibrium model of pricing is wrong per se, but that there is something not covered by the model which explains this apparent lack of equilibrium; of course, in reality it is at an equilibrium, just at an equilibrium relative to conditions not previously perceived or understood.

As society is a being of many magnitudes of complexity beyond the activity of stones, it should be apparent that it will be that much more difficult to articulate in clear terms the trajectory of history. Indeed, given simple cognitive and epistemological limits of the human being, such an understanding of the trajectory of history may be impossible (in an individual…). That does not mean, however, we are wrong to say the history of society demonstrates a tendency towards some equilibrium, whether or not we understand what that equilibrium is. For shorthand, I have referred to this final equilibrium of society as the Omega Point, to cop Teilhard de Chardin and to acknowledge the role expanding consciousness and knowledge appears to play in the unfolding of history.

Teleological history requires a particular metaphysical understanding. Specifically, in order to postulate a telos of civilization, we must understand in what way society is a metaphysically real being. In the way we distinguish between inanimate and animate being on the basis of the kind of activity demonstrated, so we must be able to distinguish between social and non-social being through some kind of activity. This suggests further avenues of research for the neoreactionary paradigm.

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